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Viewers' interest up for commentary. (Sept11 How Members responded).

The broadcast perspective on all this begins in Pittsburgh on Sept. 11, when I found myself with your officers, board members, and other committee chairs and staff preparing to convene the annual convention. By six o'clock that day, my editorial responsibility was clear: Call the station and tell the executive producer to pull all editorials until further notice.

Everything I'd left "in the can" to cover my week at the convention was tastelessly inappropriate. But unlike my print colleagues, there was nothing I could send back from Pittsburgh to fill the space. There simply were no editorials until I could rent a car and get back to town.

When I did get back, however, I found people glued to their sets. Once again a story had drawn America to the television set. As I write this, it has yet to leave.

"Television has been wonderful," said Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial page editor Susan Albright. Which is not what I called her to hear. I called her to see if she or any of her terrific writers were getting more requests to appear on television newscasts or public affairs shows in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, and to my surprise she said no.

Although on reflection, I've noticed a great reliance on in-house staff on the networks and the local stations in this area. It's like our initial response was to hunker down and keep it in the family. So many broadcasters were offering continuous coverage without any breaks whatsoever that coordination was limited to simply handing off to the next anchor on board.

"I've gotten more mall than I've ever gotten in my life," says Chuck Stokes, director of editorials and public affairs at WXYZ in Detroit. Of course, this is not news to our print colleagues. But it seems as if a great many people were writing to both their paper and their television station, which is new.

And there was a great demand to actually see and hear one's self, one's neighbors one's fellow citizens offering their thoughts, reactions, and feelings on the attacks and the response. Television was again playing the role of town square: It was a place to be connected.

My station sent out a photographer and a producer and let people have their say, and I devoted editorial time to airing citizens' views. It was our version of letters to the editor. It was a broadcast op-ed page.

Both Chuck and I did live versions of our Sunday public affairs shows the Sunday after the attacks with local politicians, historians, political scientists, clergy, Islamic leaders, and more. And, says Stokes, unlike other high profile stories with broadcast implications such as the O.J. Simpson story, interest hasn't waned. Ratings have been higher than normal for both news and public affairs shows.

And viewers are returning to network news. Perhaps it is somewhat comforting to see good ol' Dan and Peter and Tom.

Connecticut Cablevision's editorial services manager Diane Wildman found herself in greater demand to moderate meetings and forums on the attacks, reflecting the interest in having a trusted, familiar face to turn to.

Many of our stations have been involved in fundraising efforts. Madison featured an unprecedented collaborative effort among all television, radio, and print outlets, setting aside competitive sides of our personalities for one full day and joining in a community fundraiser for the United Way's Sept. 11 relief fund. WXYZ's "7 On Your Side" helped get community contributions to the Red Cross and the police and firefighters' fund.

The images that are our industry's stock in trade were of course a blessing and a curse. Pictures told the story. But it was not always a story that could be watched without some caution. KSL's editorial director Duane Cardall in Salt Lake City is one of the masters at using video in his editorials. (I, in contrast, use virtually none.) And he borrowed heavily from news footage from New York and Washington to augment his local opinions and perspective. Broadcasters heard from viewers who simultaneously couldn't stand to watch and more who couldn't stop watching. It wasn't clear if they were thanking us or criticizing us.

But as I think about it, this seems to be a story that has elevated the media in the public's eye. While many have praised television coverage, it's clear that newspaper coverage has been terrific, and citizens have wanted and needed both. We've complemented each other particularly well and have acknowledged the best of what we each have to offer and have directed our readers and viewers to that coverage.

And I believe that we editorial writers of both print and broadcast persuasions have played a large role in that and have benefited from that.

NCEW member Neil Heinen is editorial director of WISC-TV in Madison, Wise.

RELATED ARTICLE: COPING

For those with memories of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, even the Gulf War, a sad ritual has been revived. It is somewhat different today, but the pain is the same. In the past, there would be a dreaded visit from someone in a military uniform, delivering news that a son or daughter had died in war. Soon the sad news would travel down the block, then spread throughout the neighborhood. By daybreak, it would be in the morning newspaper....

[N]umbers tell only one part of this tragedy. It will take time before the tragedy is profiled in names and faces.... It will take time because rescuers have the painstaking duty of sifting through tons of rubble to search for those who, by some miracle, might have survived. Some did, but precious few.

[Even] now, ever so slowly, in the Capital Region, as throughout the nation, grief is visiting one neighborhood after another....

Times Union, Albany, N.Y., Sept. 15, by

Howard Healy, editorial page editor

COPING

This crisis... challenges America to defend itself by confronting evil, not by cringing in victimhood. We best confront evil by doing good.

Take comfort from religion, yes, but also take comfort from the spirit from which our liberty has sprung. Hold ourselves and our children to high standards of integrity, achievement and honor. Wring meanness -- from road rage to racism, from class hatred to Muslim-bashing -- out of our lives. Insist that our institutions -- schools, health care system, government -- set high standards and then meet them. Rise above envy and selfishness and reject the trendy conceit that people can shed their nationality and be "citizens of the world" or simply "members of the human race."

We weren't attacked Tuesday because we are citizens of the world. We were attacked because we are Americans. Therefore, let us be the best Americans we can possibly be, and the best people. Let the beacons of liberty and human goodness shine so brightly that potential terrorists will be shamed to draw near.

Omaha World-Herald, Sept. 16
COPYRIGHT 2001 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Heinen, Neil
Publication:The Masthead
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2001
Words:1145
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